The online space is more crowded than ever with a plethora of big-name brands making their presence felt. Be it social media or search, these brands seem to be everywhere. If your brand doesn’t possess a solid online reputation, it is harder than ever to climb search engine rankings, where your target customers will see you.
However, as is the beauty of the digital world, the playground is level for the big players as well as SMEs. It all comes down to how you play the game. That holds true for you Lady Bosses!
Questions such as ‘Is your online marketing strategy in sync with your branding strategy?’, ‘Are you crushing it on social media?’, and ‘Is your SEO strategy spot-on, complementing all other aspects of your marketing strategy?’ are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself (or your team).
For starters, let’s get our feet wet in the vast ocean that is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
SEO, 5-10 years ago
Before Google came crushing down on online marketers, SEO ‘specialists’ relied on tactical elements such as extensive use of keywords, mass link-building, aimless article submissions and even black-hat (illegal) methods. The goal was to do as much as possible to gain traction. The focus was on the technical aspects of SEO rather than the end-user.
As long as you had the title tags, meta tags and keywords in place (it’s slightly more complicated than this), eventually your website would rank for specific keywords. Whether this is the result the end user is searching for remained immaterial.
Eventually search engines (predominantly Google, the world’s most popular search engine) realised the importance of user experience and began vast crackdowns on websites they deemed unfit to fulfil the same. The rest as we say is history. The game was changed forever. Thousands of websites that had used unethical strategies to rank well on Google disappeared overnight.
So, is SEO Dead?
No. Not even close. As long as there is online marketing, there will always be search. When you hear some say SEO is dead, what they mean is (without even realising it), a certain aspect of SEO that succeeded by exploiting various loopholes is dead. Keyword stuffing, or excessive use of keywords, is dead. Mass link building, or obtaining massive numbers of links from low quality websites, is dead. Aimless article submission, or providing articles that link back to your website to each and every directory, is dead. But SEO itself prevails. It is more relevant than ever.
SEO is a tool that helps your website gain eyeballs when your target customers search for the type of products or services you offer. Unlike earlier days where a specialist was called upon to simple tweak a website, today, SEO happens to play an integral role in branding and marketing. Thus, an SEO strategy needs to complement an organisation’s branding strategy.
Branding in the online space
Branding helps customers recognise your products/services, identify what they stand for, and establish trust when they come to your site. Besides your offering, your website, social media presence and the content you dispense, represent your brand. To land on your website, customers ought to see it when they search online.
See how SEO and branding complement each other? The former helps you get found, while the latter helps audiences trust you, identify with you and become your customers.
Nowadays you are expected to publish amazing content (stories about your brand), get attention from online influencers, amplify your reach via social media because advertising alone won’t cut it. An SEO strategy is inherently linked to all online activities a brand indulges in.
Branding and SEO, both require answers for the same questions
When launching your business, you will be neck deep in developing your brand strategy. SEO might not even cross your mind. However, consider this. Your brand strategy depends on an in-depth understanding of your target customer’s thought process. Some of the most important questions you will need to ask yourself are: “Who is your target audience?” “How will they find you?” “Where are they most likely to look online?” “What is their choice language?” “How long do they consider options before making their purchase?”
Here’s the shocker – these are the exact same questions you will need to answer when devising your SEO strategy! Doesn’t it make sense that both strategies go hand in hand right from the start rather than simply tweaking your website when everything else has been finalised?
Consistency is Key
With your branding strategy in place, you need to ensure your website, social media presence and content strategy reflect the brand promise. If not, customers who find you online will be confused. Unlike in the offline space, when online, the slightest hesitance results in the prospect clicking back to his/her search results to consider other options.
Great content, interesting stories and consistent branding is how you will grab the interest of search engines and target audience alike.
A thorough understanding of your brand will help you develop unique, relevant content that search engines love. This content must appeal to your target customer as well. You must also infuse this content with relevant keywords to ensure search engines identify what the content is related to. On the other hand, overtly using keywords will result in search engines penalising your website.
Remember, people prefer brands that they trust and know, and the actions they take online due to that trust sends signals to search engines. These signals result in higher rankings.
Also, you may have done the right technical stuff to ensure with time your website does rank high. However, when visitors find that your site’s content doesn’t meet their expectations, they will opt out and visit another site. Search engines pick on these signals and take action, resulting in you losing your rank.
A quick pointer, if this is all you will take away from this article
When creating your brand’s message, focus on the pain(s) your product looks to soothe, the benefits it provides, the personas of the ideal customer and your USP. The words that make up these various elements are what your prospects will use online when searching for your product.
Summarising all of the above, here’s how branding and SEO are inseparable from each other:
Do worthy stuff of Amplify (via your social Traffic
attention (create media channels and + Earned links = Branding
great content) + earned amplification) Ranking
See how the various elements of SEO and branding are tied together to deliver results? These results translate into trust, thus a target customer opting to click your URL and eventually becoming a customer.